Police Websites: Why They Suck And How To Fix It
Suck is a pretty harsh word, but one that is repeatedly heard over and over among department employees, and more often than not, the general public. Think about it; when was the last time someone told you how great their police department's website is?
Reason #1: Poor Website Design
There are a few popular companies who specialize in providing a website solution for government organizations. There are other companies which do the same thing for school districts, hospitals, lawyers, and so forth.
These website providers became popular because they offered a way for your ordinary employee to update content on the company, school, or city website, with zero experience at all. In fact, these companies are based on concepts they implemented over twenty years ago.
The concept we speak of is this; they provide you a website framework with a header photo, your organization's color scheme and logo, and a way for employees to login, write a news release, share a photo, or add a calendar event, and immediately publish it to the website.
Why this is a problem: You wouldn't have a web designer or developer investigate a homicide scene, right? Why then, are you going to have a secretary, police officer, or community service officer design your website?
Solution: Find a new website provider who isn't out to sell you an easy to use site for your staff, but rather, a website your community will find easy to use.
Reason #2: Poor Home Page Layout And Navigation
Most police departments have a page on their cities website. The problem is these city websites do nothing to invite the user to stay longer on the site or discover more about the city, events, and services offered.
Because of this, people pretty much get over-consumed from the amount of poorly laid out content, they get tired. They're exhausted before they even can search to find your page, and often times, give up.
How many websites have you gone to, where it was too much work to find what you were looking for? I've personally left websites I was looking to purchase from, simply because it was too much work finding what I needed.
Why is this a problem: Today, when people's attention spans are limited due to the over-abundance of information they are bombarded with on social media, personal email, work email, app notifications, text messages, instant messages, and the internet, they simply don't have any more time. Navigating a difficult site is the last thing they want to do.
Solution: This is two-fold; you need your website layout re-designed so it is easy to scroll and see things, and you need to convince the administrators that not everything needs to be on the home page.
Reason #3: The Writing Is Bad
Writing your news releases and website content in a manner that it could be submitted in a court of law is simply wrong. We always preach in law enforcement to "know your audience."
If that's the case, why would you write the content on your website that is not meant for entertainment or engagement, but rather, for a judge, prosecutor, jury, and defense attorney?
You need to write it for your community and write it in such a manner that they don't need to think. I'm not implying that your community does not have good reading comprehension, but more in the fact they can't continually stop to understand what you wrote.
Why this is a problem: The more difficult to understand, the less time a visitor will spend on your site.
Solution: Have someone who does not write police reports write your content.
Reason #4: There's A Difference Between Mobile Optimized And Mobile Ready
Sure, many of these mass-produced city government templates claim to be mobile optimized, but when you go to the website on a mobile device, you realize how much they suck, even more.
In our opinion, mobile ready means the website can be viewed on a mobile device but is not necessarily user-friendly to the person scrolling through your website while they sit in the waiting area of a doctor's office.
Mobile optimized, however, means the mobile user has been taken into consideration while designing the website. It's not uncommon for us to do double the work to create a website that is laid out one way on the laptop but laid out another way on a mobile device.
A great example is a website we just completed for the Rialto Police Department in Southern California. If you visit their home page on a mobile device, you'll see the ability to click a button an call the department immediately. However, you won't find this button on the desktop version, because most people's computers are not connected to a phone.
Why this is important: Statistics show we are nearing the prediction when 80% of a website's visitors are using a mobile device to do so.
The solution: Have your web developer modify your website to look and function great on both desktop and mobile devices.
Reason #5: Outdated Content
How many websites have you visited where the date of an article or product was a few years ago. It leads you to wonder, are they still in business? When it comes to police department websites, one may question the amount of care the department has for the community.
The reason why this is important: Stay ahead of the story, media, speculation, and rumors by continually posting new, fresh content for the community.
Solution: Find a motivated employee who wants the organization to look amazing on the world-wide-web, and will do their best work at maintaining the website.
We Can Help
If your department's website is not representing your department's hard work and good reputation, it's time to give us a call. Even if your city refuses to let your department have their own website, we can still help.